Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It is Beginning to Look

Like a party dress—Right now it needs a major pressing, and it still needs details (a small bow at the front collar) and sleeves, and hem and.

And it is just the first of two--(the next one to be blue--) The blue has the same embroidered trim down the front—and will have a blue lining, too, of course.

A ribbon sash will make the dress very dressy and party like—but as is, the dress is just girly--and will be, after the party just another dress for them to wear. Depending on the fit, (and the reception) I might make another set of dresses—Simpler, and more casual—a nice red, white and blue set. Their dad's family has an annual 4th of July event—and something patriot will be fun for a picnic party.

One red dress, one blue, trimmed with red, white and blue ribbon(I already have the ribbon) White collars, and star buttons (another detail already in my stash) and Voila! Holiday dresses.

I know Miss C will love it—She is the most grateful child—For her birthday, she received a present—as she unwrapped the gift paper, she found newspaper (as padding) She was so excited with newspaper, it took a while to convince her to remove it (and find a slate board and chalk!) Newspaper—Oh thank you, I am so happy!

She is in someways like me—a bit picky—and these dresses have all the details I liked in dresses, as a child. Long zippers for easy on and easy off, a pocket, open (not elastic gathered) sleeves (still to come). I also loved ribbons and lace and other pretty details. I have a habit of doing this—Making things I like (since I was picky, and liked lots of specific detail) thinking others will like or enjoy the same details I LIKED.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Saturday Sewing? Not for Me!

Which means there was Saturday sewing--well almost. No actual sewing, but lots of prepping. 2 dresses cut for my granddaughters. Next month the youngest granddaughter, Miss K, will have her first birthday—and a party. Her older (3.5 years old) sisters will have new party dresses for the occasion.

Miss J loves pink, and Miss C loves blue—so the color palette was set. They are fraternal (should that be sororital?) twins, and rarely are dressed in matching outfits—and while the dresses I am making are identical, they are in different colors; more matching, than identical outfits. In colors that will please them.

The dresses are simple—a lined bodice, a flare skirt, puffed sleeved with a solid white peter pan collar. There will be some decorative additions—and some bows. My sewing machine has lots of decorative stitches—a few will add some nice touches to an otherwise simple dress. There might even be LaVerne like J's and C's embroidered on the skirts.

They needed less than a yard of fabric, each (60 inch wide) —and it won't take long to sew them up. I'll finish the edges of the skirts, but the lined bodice will make a neat finish all on it own--Seams bothered me as child--(my mother often finished my dresses with french seams) as did overly fussy clothing.  I might buy some ribbons for the dresses--but I am not going to make fancy ties that are sewn in place. 

Right now all the pieces are cut, including the bodice lining and interfacing—Putting the pieces together won't take long. What is fun, is I bought this fabric, 2 pieces, before they were born—long before they established their color preferences... (I bought 5 yards of each—and I will make myself skirts and tops from the remaining fabric—I want to make a bias cut skirts--(which is why I bought the yardage I did) I think the stripes will make a pretty chevron—Maybe this year, maybe next—but for now, the fabric is for party dresses. Miss K's birthday isn't until mid June—so I have plenty of time, but I'll have them done in snap.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

That was Yesterday (and Yesterday is Gone)

finished grey dress
And, today it is DONE! Top stitched, hemmed, and all buttoned up! The same as half dozen other versions I have already made, and yet so different! I still think it needs a bit more—Not ribbons perhaps—but I could make myself a General—I do have silver start buttons—to add perhaps to the collar or on the epaulets? Or maybe not. I am not a member (nor have I ever been) a member of the Services—It bordering on wrong to make it look too much like a uniform. Besides it not really my style to overdo. I'll leave it be for now—I can always add more trim.

Not sure if I am ready to start the dresses for the Girls—I have been sewing and sewing and its time to sweep the floor with a magnet (and pick up all the pins) and to vacuum up all the thread, and fold up all the pattern pieces and put them away (before I pull out a new pattern).

The new pattern needs to be copied (since it is sized 4 (desired) to 8) and planned. I plan to line the bodice of the dress (not a feature included in the pattern)—and use the same lining fabric to make a pair of over pants—Times have changed—I remember the song “I see London, I see France, I see (someones) underpants” which often happened with rough and tumble playing—I wore slips under my dresses, (even when I was a pre-schooler!) but hanging from monkey bars, or other play often reveled my underpants—and that was acceptable (or not and I was sometimes admonished to not play that way but to be more ladylike) I don't want my granddaughters to feel they have to be ladylike—before they are ladies. I want them to be able to dress up and still be able to play as they chose.

My granddaughters (and most girls today) wear undershorts, or something under a dress (if they wear a dress!) to modestly cover their under pants. A small pair of shorts, with easy on and off Velcro closures are a required added accessory to the dresses. They will match the bodice lining, and make the outfits.

Childrens size 4 dress will be faster to sew—and since both will be sewn with the same thread (more grey!) making them in tandem will still be faster than this last shirt dress. I used 2 full spools of thread, and 5 bobbins! Top Stitching really eats up thread!

I have loaded a new needle—and have the 3rd spool of thread on the spindle..so after a bit of clean up I will be ready to go. (tomorrow!) 

Saturday is for Sewing--or Not

Saturday, I woke early, and did a little work on the Grey dress before breakfast. After breakfast, I was exhausted.  I had a headache and low fever. So, back to bed, for a little nap. After the nap, I put way some of the clothes,  ( I did 4 loads of wash Thursday)—and didn't get it all put away—partly because 1 load was winter clothes—and these didn't put back—put packed away, and secondly, a few pieces needed a bit of touch up ironing. I didn't get the touch up ironing done in the morning.

I did next to nothing, really, at all, but I was still felt tired, and fevered. It was a beautiful, warm (but not hot) day, but after all the effort involved in putting away laundry, I ended up taking another nap. 3 hours later, I woke, did a bit of ironing—from the laundry, and the dress, too. So now, the facing and collar are done. But not the top stitching, nor the buttonholes, or hem and buttons. It is still not finished. And absolutely nothing started on the dresses for the girls.

But what ever had me under the weather all day finally passed by 9PM. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast—but now was hungry—a salad and small serving of pasta was more than enough, and the day was over.

It is not much of a day when all you ended up doing is putting away some clean laundry, and your biggest accomplishments are naps.

But tomorrow is another day—and the end is in sight for the dress.

Woke this AM feeling refreshed—My goal is to get the rest of the dress done—early. The buttons for this dress are the hammer on rivet like kind—I need to get them done during daylight hours—or wait till tomorrow.

Friday, May 19, 2017


A half a dozen seams later, and a pile of pieces become a dress!  Well almost a dress.

The dress fronts sewn to the yoke, and the dress back, too. Then the side seams, with the narrow back belt in the seam, and a very dress like form begins to emerge. Followed by 2 set in sleeves. It is very clearly a dress! There are still the front facing, and the collar and all those final details (buttons and buttonholes and more) but the end is in sight.

It looks a little plain—Maybe some silver fringe for the epaulets? Just joking! Thought I did consider some ribbons—thing is these days ribbons are only sold on small (2 yard or so) spool, and finding interesting striped ones? Plus there is the this--buying several spools for just an inch or two of trim?  I think the silver buttons will enliven the look enough. I don't want to go overboard on the military/uniform look.

But it does look very different than the other dresses I have made with this pattern. (see my post of 4/22 for 3 different looks) None of these details (pockets, flaps, epaulets, top stitching (or even the shoulder yoke)) were part of the original pattern—which was very plain. This is the sixth version I have made of this shirt dress—and I haven't come close to exhausting the variations I could make.  It is part of my personal uniform--that most don't recognize as a uniform at all.

Most often, I buy fabric on sale, or mill end, or remnants—and I don't always have extra (and sometimes not even enough)—this dress features a yoke lining of broadcloth—(not the self same fabric).  To do major changes is iffy and requires extra fabric.  Often I am short on length—or if not short, close. This version, like several others, is just (slightly) below the knee length.  There was enough fabric--just. One store, that closed shop in my neighborhood,  had precut 3 yard lengths--in 100% cotton. Just enough for a dress--but cotton shrinks. and after shrinkage--a full quarter yard (9 inches!) was lost--making things...well short.When they closed a bought up several of these precuts (at bargain basement prices)--

Of course—when the price is right, I buy yards and yards--(as I did of the blue that became the skirt and vest, and trim on other skirt (and there is still enough to make another yoked skirt!)

Next time around, (and there will be, in the next few years, several NEXT times) I want to add a different bottom—and make the dress with the curved lower edges of a men's dress shirt. Another small change that will result in something that is the same –and different.  Not sure what color or fabric I will use...(maybe something I haven't found or bought yet!) 

And so it goes: a little bit of creativity, a little bit of practicality, a little bit of luxury(I'll show the lining details tomorrow) —all in one.

Today is my day with the girls (grandchildren) –so I won't get any more of the dress done today—but tomorrow is Saturday—and Saturday is for Sewing. (We'll just ignore all the hours I have work on it this week!) I'll finish up the machine sewing, and then work the hand details, and have a new dress done in a week and day. If I do so early enough, will pull out some striped fabric for dresses for the girls—and get the pieces cut—and start all over again with a new project.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Now I Remember

Why I stopped making dresses and jackets that had a military look! The Details.

I still haven't started the DRESS—I am just working on the details! Sewed up the epaulets, trimmed the seams, turned the work, pressed, added the buttonhole, and the top stitching. Repeated for the second epaulet, repeated for pocket flap, (and the second pocket flap) Top stitched the collar. Re-enforced the pockets too, and the shoulder yoke. (Where the buttons will be placed—forgot them when I did most of the iron on interfacing. That is one disadvantage of making up different versions—No one has written out details for working them.)

Hemmed the sleeves and added top stitching, too. I still need to add the pockets and flaps, before I work the yoke and side seams. Making this dress feels endless!

I am on the second spool of thread, and the 4th bobbin—And I still just have pieces—not anything that looks like a dress! It will be significantly different looking than the other versions of this dress.  But, boy, oh boy, it is so much more work!

In the next session, I will sew on the pockets and flaps, and finally be ready to make up the dress—that is sew the front to the back at the yoke and side seam. Then there will still be the sleeves and collar (and facing) and then MORE top stitching on the front of the dress.

My machine has a “top stitch” option—a forward stitch, a back wards stitch and then forward again—three stitches in the same spot to make a decorative row of stitching—but it takes almost 3 times longer than a regular row of stitching, and to be honest, I work slower to keep the row of stitches nice and straight.

New seams sewn will mean more pressing, and there are final details, (adding the buttons) and some bits of hand sewing—So there will be 2 (or more)  sessions before the dress is finished...

All this work is a reminder—details, details, details are work, work work! I won't be doing this much work again for a long time.It is a nice option to have a detailed look--but not very often!

Monday, May 15, 2017

So, Saturday Sewing—Sort of, Some More

No actual sewing of seams—but lots of “sewing” done.

A dress cut, linings and inter-facings, too. Preliminary work done, too. The fabric is a plain weave, aka monks cloth, aka canvas—What ever you want to call it, it unravels easily—so every raw edge is being overcast with a zig zag stitch—I have used two full bobbin already—and I haven't overcast all of them yet! Zigzagging is easier than covering the raw edges with seam binding.

My mother was a professional seamstress, I remember her buying huge (8 inch!) spools of seam binding—she had a dozen spools, in as many colors. I also remember the little 3 yard packets of hem & seam binding that she sneered at! She bound the seams with tape and a straight stitch—No raw edges to be seen. No just on her customers clothes, but on the ones she sewed for us (me and my sibling) as well. Not homemade clothes—but couture clothes.

All the edges finished, and fine details in place. Eventually, I even worked for her. I took on the job of making buttonholes. Most often, today, I use my machine and it's buttonhole making option, just as many of my mothers customers did—but bound buttonholes, and hand sewn buttonholes are still an option for suits--(but then, I rarely make suits these days!) and tailored jackets (these too, are mostly things of the past) As a teen I was paid to make hand sewn buttonholes by my mother--$1 for each one.

Her machine at that time didn't make machine buttonholes, and the Notions store that did also charged $1 per buttonhole, so the price was the same—What ever style was chosen.

So all the pieces are cut, most have bound edged, all the interfacing have been cut and and ironed on (my preferred style of interfacing) Other ironing as well (the pockets hems) and some pieces have been pinned—the epaulets, the pocket flaps, the collar.

So the next time I sit down to sew, I will actually start sewing!

I am making the shoulder yoked version of the shirt dress-- again. I still like to line dresses—at least partially—in this case, just the shoulder yoke will be lined—but that will make the a nice difference—the lined yoke will hide the seams. I like it when the insides look almost as good as the outsides.   I have been known to make french seams at times too—just because it is so nice to have these fine details..

This version of the shirt dress—similar to the yellow/blue/white print—with a few different details. First the fabric, a heavier cotton, (but still not heavy weight!) with even weave, in a solid color (grey). That alone is a big change from the broad clothe cotton print. There will be top stitching—On the yoke, and pockets, and around the collar and other places; epaulets, pocket flaps and so on. .

The buttons are a silvery grey metal, and the result will be a slightly military uniform look to the shirt dress. The lower pockets will also be patch pockets, too --a less common option for me. I think pockets set in the side seam are neater—just because they are less obvious. But changing the pockets style goes a long way to changing the look of the dress. All these little details and changes will add up to a big change in the look of final dress.

From start to finish, this dress will take between about 8 hours—If I credit my time at $15 an hour—that is over a hundred for a casual everyday dress.( Some dresses take a lot less time.) My labor is not the only cost (just the major one), there is also the cost of the fabric, lining, interfacing, buttons, spools and other bits and pieces (sewing machine needle aren't sold one at time, but in 4 packs—but the still need to be bought.) All these add up to different totals, (depending mostly on the cost of the fabric) but $25 is a good average. Home made clothing, if compared to store bought stuff can be 2 or 3 times the cost of a dress from a big box, chain store, made in China dress—but I really hate the cheaply made stuff. I was raised on couture, and I want couture—And if you discount the cost of my labor—I get champagne on a beer budget!

I wear custom made, one of kind clothing. My clothing last and lasts--(I have casual dresses that are 20 years old!) and it pleases me. I still have plans for more skirts and vests and even another shirt dress. But I suspect I will take a break after this dress is finished—and perhaps make some dresses for my granddaughters—get them started on appreciating lovely clothing!

I'll take photos when the dress looks like a dress--(and not just a pile of fabric).

Sunday, May 07, 2017

More Saturday Sewing

Skirt 2 with narrow yoke
Skirt 2—A solid blue yoke, with a skirt of the yellow/blue/white print is nearing completion. This skirt will be fine on its own, with a plain or trimmed T shirt, with a tank top and perhaps a camp shirt—(I have both white and yellow ones—see here—from 8 years ago!) It can be dressed up by adding the blue vest, too. Please note: my dress form is for photography, not for fitting... It has a 16 inch waist--(something I haven't had since my age was single digits!) I wish it looked just like this on me—but it does give you an idea. Here are some details (done and to come)
Waist band pocket with flap

I am picking through the scraps of fabric to trim a T shirt or two—a white one or a yellow one.. or maybe even a medium blue one-- I haven't unpacked my summer T's—so I am not sure what colors I have (that is not true—I have every color!)

I still have more blue linen like fabric—Not a lot, but enough to make half a skirt—another yoked skirt, with the solid blue as a yoke, (a larger yoke than this one) –and a different print for the other half of the skirt (there are only small scrapes of the yellow/blue/white print)—The third skirt will also go with the vest—giving me 3 options--(actually, more because the blue vest will go with lots of other skirts, and at least one other shirt dress) – to mix and match. Coordinating separates can really expand a wardrobe.

I don't remember what I had planned to make when I bought the blue fabric(about 5 years ago!)—I do remember is was a bargain bin choice, and I bought all that was left from the bolt (about 5 yards of 48 inch wide fabric) –thinking that this was enough fabric to create a number of options—and so it goes, one solid (and somewhat formal skirt,) a print skirt with blue trim, and finally a sort of color block skirt, with a deep yoke of blue, and (likely) a flared lower tier—I have several prints that might be go with.

I have been sewing almost half a century, and I know how to sew—I tend to start with commercial patterns, and then just “adjust” and add detail... In this case, the yoke is an added detail and so is the little pocket added at the lower edge of the yoke. (Which gave me no end of grief to get right!) I will make buttonholes, and add the button—and there will be 3 buttons on the yoke for the closure. I love that I was able to find buttons that are a perfect match! The little flapped pocket is #3--this skirt also has 2 side seam (full sized!) pockets.

It is more or less my own design (thought there is nothing especial original about the design) Just a few details to make it slightly different than the other half dozen skirts I have made from this pattern.

The outside of the yoke is finished, not so the inside, and there are buttonholes and buttons, and the hem—a few more hours of work left to do. But it has taken shape—and you can see how it will look—since there is work to do, but no major changes from here.

I need two new things now—a blue hat, and blue sneakers. I do have two lace hats (my knit lace ones) the blue is a close (but not perfect) match and the yellow is almost a perfect match. I have a white and yellow baseball caps, too, —but no blue sneakers (or for that matter, yellow sneakers). Most of my sneakers—old fashioned lace up ones, or casual canvas slip on's are (currently) black, grey and white--There is the a single blue pair (turquoise blue) another pair that are red—and one a paisley print. In 2015, I finally tossed a pair of custom dyed sneakers I bought to wear to my sons wedding—almost 20 years ago! At the same time, I added embroidery to a pair of white sneakers—I only wore them a few times last year (they are as good as new) These are pretty, but they aren't the best match for the yellow/blue/white print—I'll look for another pair of white sneakers—and use fabric paint and a little bit of embroidery to make a pair to match.

When you have a lot of sneakers, and wear each pair just a few times a season, you can build up a complete wardrobe of sneakers!--Some years it seems there are no colors I like—other years, I stock up on white, and then I paint them, or embroider them, or sometimes dye them. Custom shoes to go with custom made clothes—and all at bargain basement prices (and a few hours of work!)